Russia demands visa-free EU travel
By Marit Ruuda
European Commission President Romano Prodi and Russia's President Vladimir Putin held talks last night in Kremlin over Iraq, an upcoming Russia-EU summit in St. Petersburg and a possible visa-free agreement between Russia and the EU.
Russia: importance of EU relations
Mr Putin called on the EU to grant Russian nationals a visa-free status for trips to EU countries. The Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Igor Ivanov also said that a special team will be soon formed to consider what concrete steps could be taken.
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Mr Putin also proposed to go to Brussels in order to discuss some aspects about the visa-free agreement, Mr Ivanov said after the meeting, according to the Russian information agency Novosti.
The agency also said that the Russian President raised the possible problems which could arise when the accession countries join the EU. In general, Russia's attitude to EU enlargement is positive, however discussions are needed to prevent damage to each of those countries' bilateral contacts with Russia, added Mr Ivanov.
Russia hails EU statement on Iraq
Mr Prodi and Mr Putin also discussed the outcome of the EU emergency meeting on Iraq. Mr Putin indicated Russia’s support for the EU's common position on Iraq. "We hail the statement approved yesterday at the EU summit. We believe that our positions enable us to continue to interact to solve the Iraq problem," Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told a news conference in Moscow on Tuesday.
The Commission President's visit to Moscow was relatively short, as he flew to Moscow Tuesday evening in an aircraft lent by Mr Putin, had dinner with Russian leaders and headed back to Brussels later in the evening. The invitation to go to Moscow was given at the weekend.